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Brand Strategy For The Unexpected


Brand Strategy For The Unexpected

As Nassim Nicholas Taleb told us in his book The Black Swan humans have a tendency to find simplistic explanations for highly improbable, rare and unpredictable events. A black swan was an impossible creature, until one was discovered. And it’s much the same with the branding. How the product is used and which features and attributes are most important are often impossible to know, until they are shown. That is why most entrepreneurs, inventors and marketers are in for surprises. Sometimes these are good, positive and prosperous surprises. Sometimes, unfortunately, they are quite the opposite. Those are the ones we know very little about; they are seldom discussed. That’s the nature of things.

Socrates famously said, ‘I know one thing: that I know nothing.’ This, along with Oscar Wilde’s ‘To anticipate the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect’ is an important part of developing a new kind of business strategy. We need to modernize our attitudes towards unexpected branding and open our minds to the fact that the best way of creating a strong brand is not something you can plan and foresee. Only by embracing the probabilities of the unexpected can you be really successful.

We don’t just need to be prepared for the downside of the unexpected (as is mostly the case with Taleb’s black swan). This kind of risk-minimizing is most interesting for financial investors and insurance executives. As brand leaders, we also need to embrace, or learn to love, the unexpected in order to facilitate the creation of the unexpected brand. Becoming more open to new ideas and unexpected innovations often leads to better branding. It is the expansive upside that we look for with customer experience branding and positive surprises.

Brand Strategy For The Unexpected

Today’s brands must move away from the transactional brand strategy. A strategy built for the past of old mechanistic, industrial, mass-market thinking, focused only on product or service based branding. Attentive to customers only collectively, as target groups with clearly outspoken, clichéd needs, ignoring the deeper and weaker signals from individual minds and the experiences of individual consumers and users. The brand strategy to adopt is built on individual relationships between the brand itself and the customers, consumers and users of the product or service. This branding is anchored in the sharing and reviewing of an idea with the ambition of a higher purpose and meaning.

The products and services are just part of this idea, not the whole of the idea. This means that customers and users are part of this brand strategy, and are invited to share their experience and co-create, or at least co-evaluate. It’s a brand strategy that truly opens the brand up for the unexpected.

How To Turn The Unexpected To Your Business And Branding Advantage

The first step towards not fearing the unexpected but instead embracing it is to be aware of it. Here, we can learn from Nassim Nicholas Taleb and his unexpected black swan. But it’s important to keep in mind that there is usually much more to the unexpected than the downside. The upside of being receptive to the unexpected is that it becomes easier to turn the unexpected into a positive management strategy instead of a crisis.

The right method of building strategy begins with brand thinking and customer focus. Ensuring that a business survives takes constant innovation and creativity based on a genuine interest in the early warnings and weak signals from users and customers. Following these signals, instead of looking over your shoulder at competitors and desperately trying to disrupt the business, can lead to innovation in itself. Taking risks is a way for a business to always take the position to win, yet identifying worthy risks, and not taking unnecessary ones, is the key to success.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Thomas Gad, excerpted from his book Customer Experience Branding, with permission from Kogan Page publishing.

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